When something old becomes new

by Annette Bridges. © 2008. All rights reserved.

We were on a weekend trip to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Although we were going back to a quaint town we had visited many times, we were staying at a bed & breakfast we had never been to before.

For a while now, I’ve been trying to break free from old habits and routines and be more open-minded and flexible in every area of my life. Perhaps it was this change in perspective and purpose that resulted in a new discovery when we toured the town.

Natchitoches, La., is renowned as the oldest settlement in the Louisiana Purchase Territory, established in 1714, and is also famous for being the film site of “Steel Magnolias.” Located on the Cane River, shopping and dining in the city’s historic downtown is truly an experience that I never tire of. In fact, my daughter and I have made a Christmas shopping trip here for the past few years, and we plan to continue this tradition. Eating fried green tomatoes and Natchitoches meat pies has become an annual must-do for us!

One of my husband’s favorite shops is the Kaffie Frederick General Mercantile, which is touted as Louisiana’s oldest general store. It was in this store where I made my discovery.

As we meandered through its many aisles, I found myself looking up when we reached the back section of the store. Much to my surprise, I saw an opening in the ceiling with a sign explaining how “skylights” were original to the architecture and provided helpful lighting when there was no electricity.

I had toured this store many times and never noticed either the skylight or the sign. And I’ve been intrigued ever since, wondering how I could have missed this unique building feature during our previous visits — something that had always been there and yet I had never noticed.

I reasoned that because the store always has so much interesting merchandise to capture my gaze, I simply never had the inclination to look up.

It occurred to me that this is not that unusual. Whether in regard to shops, relationships or our jobs, many times in our lives, so much is placed in front of us — crowding or overwhelming our point of view — that it is sometimes difficult to see everything that is going on all around us.

Since my newest goals include to slow down, to make moments matter and to be open for new adventures and experiences, I’ve found that I’m not so conscious of the things that used to consume my attention. Consequently, this may be why I discovered the general store’s skylights during this visit — along with many other town features I had never noticed before, I might add.

For some reason I find myself thinking about a conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus. Jesus said, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

The desire to further understand the idea of being “born again” has caused me to ponder the experience of a newborn babe. A baby enters the world without preconceptions. She is curious and alert to everything and everyone. She is eager to learn about and understand everything around her. She is receptive and inquisitive.

This seems to describe a helpful perspective for those on their spiritual journey — a perspective that would surely help them discover and understand their own spirituality. And I think it also describes a good disposition to be had in every aspect of one’s life.

Imagine approaching each day like a baby. Each day would be filled with new lessons to be learned, and you would be excited to learn each one. You would see life as filled with many insights and treasures waiting to be discovered. And you would welcome each day with joy-filled confidence and faith.

My hope is to approach each day with such childlike anticipation — always looking for and expecting to discover and learn something new. And again and again, the old would be made new.

Don’t miss out!

by Annette Bridges. © 2007. All rights reserved.

A couple of weeks ago I went on a day trip with my daughter to eat lunch and shop in a small town in Louisiana where I enjoyed one of my favorite meals — fried green tomatoes and Cajun meat pies. But it was only a couple of years ago when I ate my very first fried green tomato! Unfortunately, I’ve spent most of my life unwilling to try something new. And I can’t help but wonder how much I have missed.

Some would say we’re prisoners of habit. From the way we think and believe to how we react and behave, we resist changes in the patterns we’ve built for our lives. And from my own experience, not doing something or not trying something has also been habit-forming. But habits can be broken.

“Old habits die hard,” the old adage proclaims. In other words, if a belief or way of behaving dies hard, it takes a long time to disappear and is not given up easily. I suspect some smokers unsuccessfully trying to quit would agree with this. However, I have a brother who, after smoking for probably 30 years of his life, easily quit once he decided to quit. His firm commitment brought discipline and confidence. He quit smoking on New Year’s Eve 15 years ago and never broke his resolution. So, breaking an old habit is possible and it need not be arduous.

A recent study asserts we’re set in our ways when it comes to our habits, our tastes, our preferences, and suggests getting stuck in the status quo comes with age. The study sought to learn when we lose our taste for the new.

For example, survey results from this study concluded that most people are 20 years old or younger when they first hear the popular music they choose to listen to for the rest of their lives. And if you’re more than 35 years old when a style of popular music is introduced, there’s a greater than 95 percent chance that you’ll never choose to listen to it. I must say, when it comes to music, I guess I’m in the remaining 5 percent. But, that said, I still definitely enjoy listening to the music of my high school and college days, too.

When it comes to food, I don’t think I ever had the taste for the new, even when I was young. My unwillingness to try new foods became a bad habit early on.

But, why is repetition so appealing? Some suggest our natural tendency is to revert to deep-rooted memories. Some say we’re afraid of making a mistake, failing or looking foolish. Some believe we acquire patterns of behavior that continue to occur automatically because we don’t question or consider a change.

How can we break bad habits and stop misguided reason from directing our behavior? How can we keep our tastes from narrowing or lose our fear of change or unwillingness to try something new?

Perhaps we can best begin by not believing a wrong concept of who we are, such as picky, addicted, fat, unreasonable, obstinate, unprogressive!

For me, the impulse to want to try new foods is a result of a newly gained self-image. For years I desired more order, balance and activity in my life, along with less body weight. Today, I’m 30 pounds lighter and happier and more energized than ever. I’ve also become more open-minded, spontaneous and hungry for all things new and different — including food.

In the Bible, Paul tells us that when we get rid of our old and stubborn ways, we can renew our thoughts and attitudes and see ourselves as the God-created inquisitive and spiritual child that we are. He wrote, “Since, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything — and I do mean everything — connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life — a God fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.” (Ephesians 4:22-24, Eugene Peterson, The Message)

Take heart, my friends. You need not miss out on the rich, vibrant world out there with all the infinite possibilities and God-provided good. You are governed by God alone and are not enslaved by habit or limited thinking or opinions. You have a spiritual nature, a spiritual instinct, which is open and receptive to God’s expansive point of view that is ever new, fresh, invigorating and full of life. So, if you want to make a change or try something new, you can do it!